Chicago restaurant recommendations?
January 9, 2012 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Chicago locals- what are your favorite low and moderately priced restaurants? We recently moved to Chicago, and we're looking for new places to try.

We're happy to travel anywhere in the city or suburbs (we have a car), and we like all types of food: Mexican, Italian, Ethiopian, Indian, Middle Eastern, seafood, dim sum, etc. Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by b_alex_a to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Can you please give a price range?
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 12:59 PM on January 9, 2012

As a starting point, you'll want to check out the Great Neighborhood Restaurant list on LTHForum; this is a message board of food obsessives, and this list is their pick of favorite restaurants (almost all of them low-cost and many of them ethnic). A Google map of the list is here. I was going to start listing favorites of mine off this list, but I realized it was practically...all of them!
posted by carrienation at 1:00 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nuevo Leon west of Blue Island on 18th. I'm surprised they have a website.

And East of Blue Island Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan for the best goat barbacoa ever.

Both Mexican, obviously. Nuevo Leon is BYOB, not sure about Birrieria Reyes, but they don't serve any.
posted by cmoj at 1:04 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Duck Walk or Pho and I (they're basically the same), off the Belmont stop on the Red Line.
posted by sleepingcbw at 1:16 PM on January 9, 2012

I'm no longer a local, but still pine after many Chicago restaurants 4+ years later. Some favorite cheap eats:

Tacos: Taco Veloz, or for a little more money Maiz (although I've heard Maiz isn't as good any more).

Indian: Any lunch buffet on Devon (I was partial to Viceroy's). Hema's is legendary, although I've never been.

Costa Rican: Irazu

Deep dish pizza: Lou Malnati's, Art of Pizza

Other pizza: Santullo's, Crust

Falafel: Sultan's

Southern: Feed

BBQ: Smoque

Belgian: Hop Leaf

New American: Cafe Lula

Mostly-vegan bar food: Handlebar
posted by tsmo at 1:22 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks guys! We've tried both Sultan's and Maiz and liked both.

As for price range, $10-20 for entrees. And we like vegetarian food too, if y'all have any specific suggestions for that.
posted by b_alex_a at 1:30 PM on January 9, 2012

I'm about as frugal as they come, and visit the city once/month or so. Always try to hit between one and all of the following:

Crisp in Lakeview does wacky, yet somehow practical and delicious Korean stuff, both veg and not. Brown rice and house kimchi are added bonuses.

Always had a soft spot for Taqueria Moran in Logan Square.

Coal Fire Pizza on Grand @ Ogden is pure garlicky indulgence.
posted by obscurator at 1:38 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by mike_bling at 2:03 PM on January 9, 2012

Demera, Cafe con Leche, Pho 777 on Argyle just east of Broadway
posted by smich at 2:10 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bistro Nami Sushi in Clarendon Hills is my favorite sushi place (though sadly not one I get to often)

Thai San Chef in Darien has very good Thai, Chinese and sushi
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:12 PM on January 9, 2012

Karyn's on Green, but not Karyn's Raw
Eleven city diner
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Huaraches Dona Chio is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant
Jin is a new Thai spot
Icosium for crepes as a meal
Ba Le is seriously delicious and cheap French/Vietnamese sandwiches and also prepared foods
Pret a Manger: many locations downtown for lunch
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:56 PM on January 9, 2012

The Sit Down in Hyde Park has good sushi, thin crust pizza, sandwiches, and pasta. Weird list, but they really make it work.
posted by astapasta24 at 3:00 PM on January 9, 2012

You need some Earwax!

Also, there was a place near the lake, I thought it was called Two Brothers, it was BYOB and Middle Eastern in nature, can't find it on Google :-(. $2 corking fee.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:07 PM on January 9, 2012

My Chicago favorites:
Ethiopian Diamond
San Soo Gab San (Korean BBQ)
Pho Viet
M. Henry and M. Henrietta (for breakfast/brunch)
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:29 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Lou Malnati's. Best deep dish in Chicago.
posted by erstwhile at 3:36 PM on January 9, 2012

Chinese: Han 202 in Bridgeport is one of the best values in the city--$25 for a five-course Prix Fixe meal, BYOB. The Chinese BBQ at Sun Wah is also not to be missed. Lao Szechuan in Chinatown is a classic choice.

Brunch: Seconding M. Henr[y,ietta]. Nana in Bridgeport as well.

Korean: Seconding Crisp.

American-style BBQ: Smoque, Uncle John's, Honky Tonk, Honey 1, and many more. We are blessed.

Vietnamese: In addition to Ba Le, there are several worthy pho places near Arglye, including Pho 777, Tank Noodle, and (my favorite) Pho Lily.

Sushi: Blue Ocean in Uptown is a good value.

Mexican: My favorite better-than-you-pay-for high-end Mexican is La Ciudad in Uptown. For even cheaper options, wander aimlessly down 18th St. in Pilsen or 26th in Little Village.

Pizza: thirding Lou Malnatti's. For neapolitan style, Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood.
posted by hal incandenza at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2012

Uru-Swati on Devon: Vegetarian chaat and delicious south Indian food (dosas etc).

Taza Bakery, also on Devon: Good shawarma, meat and spinach pies, flat bread with zataar or meat, etc. Their masonry oven is always on and many items are cooked to order.

Tank Noodle (Argyle and Broadway) for pho and other Vietnamese food (bonus: right across the street from Ba Le).

D'amato's Bakery (Grand Ave. just west of the highway): Delicious coal-fired sheet pan pizza, Italian cookies by the pound, cannoli, arancini, so-so Italian-style bread (white, crusty, stale in 3-6 hours). Two seats in the front window, no tables. This is a different style of pizza than Coalfire sells--it has a thick crust and lots of slightly burnt toppings and not too much cheese.

Taqueria El Milagro in Pilsen: an arm of the El Milagro tortilla empire, I think. The tacos are good, but you should really try the tamales and entrees (turkey in mole, for example).

Carnitas Uruapan, also in Pilsen: delicious carnitas by the pound. I've also heard that Don Pedro's is good.

If you like posole, you should try Pozoleria San Juan.

Sticky Rice has excellent Thai food.
posted by pullayup at 4:10 PM on January 9, 2012

Seconding Hopleaf, especially if you like beer.
posted by dfan at 4:37 PM on January 9, 2012

Earwax closed in March. And they were not so good for months before that.

Piece is excellent pizza, and their lunch portions are really good.

Jimmy's Pizza and Beginets (no seriously) on Lincoln and Foster has authentic East Coast style pizza. (authenticity authenticated by an East Coast style pizza message board. I kid you not).

Hot Doug's.

The Bad Apple.

For bahn mi, Nhu Lan on Lawrence.

For deep dish pizza, Pequod's.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:25 PM on January 9, 2012

OH. And for EXCELLENT vegan food, you need to go to Soul Veg.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:27 PM on January 9, 2012

Gino's North in Edgewater (No relation to Gino's East, thank god.) Deep dish.

Udupi Palace in Rogers Park. Veg/began Indian.

Cafe Flo in West Town. Mexican/Best brunch anywhere.

Franks 'N' Dawgs in Lincoln Park. House-made sausages and hot dogs. Blows Hot Doug's out of the water.

Moody's Pub in Edgewater. Burgers.

Kuma's in Avondale. Awesome Burgers.

Big Star in Wicker Park. Nuevo Mexican.

Any of the Francesca's Places. Italian

Volo in Roscoe Village. Wine Bar.

Paramount Room in West Loop. Great bar food, great beer.
posted by bryanthecook at 5:36 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

For great brunch:

1) Blind Faith (vegan and outstanding) and 2)Lucky Platter (wacky ambiance) in Evanston

3) M. Henry in Andersonville

God, I miss Chicago so much. Way too many restaurants to name really. Enjoy yourself. I recommend picking up the Not For Tourists guide to Chicago, it is a great way to learn each neighborhood.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:37 PM on January 9, 2012

Hot Doug's is amazing, worth waiting in the mile-long line for. Seasonal (as in, reindeer during December) sausage, awesome toppings, duck fat fries...and the last time we went (admittedly over a year ago) under $10.

In a sort of similar vein, Kuma's Corner, but you have to deal with some hipster pretension.

I don't know if it's still around, but Pampanga's Filipino which is admittedly not centrally located at all was really good the one time we happened to stumble in right before driving out of the city.

And not a meal, and also possibly not as amazing as it was the 3 or 4 years ago we went before it became super duper famous thanks to the Food Network, but Bleeding Heart Bakery set off a love affair still going strong with me for amazingly unconventional steroid-strong flavored baked goods done with textural perfection.
posted by ifjuly at 4:30 AM on January 10, 2012

Oh! And also possibly not as good or even existing anymore because it's been a good 3+ years, but Old L'viv in the Ukrainian Village used to do a cheap as all get out, very rich/satisfying lunch buffet full of authentic Ukrainian borscht, pierogi, chicken Kiev, other meat dumplings and nostalgically seasoned potatoes with rich dark sauces, etc. Very good this time of year, and if you grew up with an Eastern European grandmother it might take you back. Last I checked it was cash only. They served really good Eastern European beer too.
posted by ifjuly at 4:33 AM on January 10, 2012

I'd second many of these, but specifically call out:

Franks 'N' Dawgs -- self-made sausages way better than Hot Doug's
Sun Wah (whose Peking Duck has been attested to as life changing)

I'm also a fan of Taco Joint for a wider food selection similar to Big Star, but a lesser drink selection. Their special rotating guacamole is always surprising and especially tasty.

The Chicago Eater 38 is also usually a good guide to start from for well-regarded tasty spots around the city.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 6:29 AM on January 10, 2012

I can't believe I forgot to mention Hot Doug's. Best ever. And I can second M. Henry, Spacca Napoli, and Piece. Chicago is a fantastic place for eating.
posted by tsmo at 6:40 AM on January 10, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks guys! These suggestions are awesome! We are looking forward to trying a lot of these! :-)
posted by b_alex_a at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2012

(Ms. Vegetable) Chicago Diner, Cumin, Amarit
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:00 PM on January 11, 2012

I just checked Hot Doug's Facebook and yeah, they're still cheap as all get out given the awesomeness. Recently they mentioned some lunch special of any of the more basic dogs on their menu, fries, and possibly a drink and it was something obscenely cheap, like $3. They only do duck fat fries on Fridays, IIRC.
posted by ifjuly at 2:57 PM on January 11, 2012

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